Sioux City Joins Teams Leaving The Northern League

And then there were four.

The Sioux City Explorers became
the fourth Northern League member to announce their voluntary
withdrawal from the league, a move that is expected to lead to them
joining a trio of other clubs that are forming a new breakaway league.

Explorers filed their withdrawal Tuesday night, a decision that came
just before an already scheduled Northern League conference call.
During that conference call, the remaining eight Northern Leagues all
pledged their intent to stay in the league. Then again, just a week
ago, Sioux City pledged its intent to remain in the Northern League
during a conference call to discuss the decision of the Lincoln
Saltdogs, St. Paul Saints and Sioux Falls Canaries to leave the league.

week later, the Explorers decided to leave. Geography made the new
league for former Northern League clubs a much more logical fit, as
Sioux City is only 90 miles from Sioux Falls, and Lincoln is only 150
miles away. St. Paul is about 350 miles away.

Goldklang, chairman of the St, Paul Saints, said that the trio of teams
in the as-yet unnamed league had not contacted Sioux City before the
team’s decision, but they have made it clear that there is a short
period of time in which they will welcome any Northern League team that
wants to join them. Goldklang, away from his office on Wednesday, said
he was unaware of an official request by the Explorers to join the new
league, but he expected one shortly.

Northern League
commissioner Mike Stone said that the league’s board of directors have
agreed to look at modifying the rules on voluntary withdrawal, but it
appears that no action has been taken as of yet.

directors have agreed to renew their commitments to the league,” Stone
said. “I don’t see any tremendous urgency (to modify the withdrawal
rules). We had a long conference call last night. They reaffirmed their
faith in each other.”

Under the league’s rules, it would take a unanimous vote by the owners to alter the constitution’s withdrawal rules.

we’re examining is a pledge of affiliation,” Stone said. “I can assure
you there was 100 percent agreement on firming up that portion of the

Sioux City’s decision has made the Northern
League’s scheduling decisions easier in some ways. Until the Explorers
left, the league had nine teams, which probably would have necessitated
an expansion team or a traveling team to make the 2006 schedule work.
After running schedule permutations, Stone said that a nine-team
schedule was “impossible,” as it would leave teams off on weekends and
would not fit within the league’s late-May until early-September window.

the Northern League does face some geographic questions with its
current layout. The league would appear likely to form two four-team
divisions for 2006, but in those divisions, Winnipeg and Fargo would be
separated by more than 700 miles from Calgary and Edmonton in one
division. In the other division, there would be three teams in the
Chicago suburbs and Kansas City, which is now roughly 500 miles from
the nearest other team in the league.

Kansas City, just 190
miles from Lincoln, might make more geographic sense joining with the
four Northern League breakaway clubs, but that appears unlikely. It was
the T-Bones’ X-box promotion–where three innings of a Kansas
City-Schaumburg regular-season game would be decided by a pair of video
game players–and the league’s approval of the promotion that helped
get the trio of teams thinking about the possibility of forming a new
league (commissioner Mike Stone eventually cancelled the promotion
before it occurred). The T-Bones have given no sign that they intend to
leave the Northern League.

The new league has offered to
play some limited interleague games, but Goldklang said such an offer
would only be available for a couple more weeks, as the new league will
have to start firming up its scheduling permutations before long.

the new league, the addition of Sioux City gives the league a fourth
team that fits geographically, as all four clubs are within a 500-mile
radius. Goldklang said the addition of Sioux City means the league is
looking at having between 10 and 12 teams for 2006. When asked, he said
that the new league could reach that number without going into existing
markets or raiding markets with current college summer league teams.

2006, it will be pretty good, but we’re not doing what we’re doing to
wind up where we are in 2006, it’s for 2007 and 2008 and beyond,”
Goldklang said.

The group is aiming to have its schedule and
all of its markets announced by baseball’s Winter Meetings, slated for
Dec. 5-8 in Dallas. The yet-to-be-named league is currently running
potential names past lawyers to check on trademark and other issues,
while also fielding calls from parties and cities interested in
potentially joining the league.

Goldklang also said that
while the new group has gotten calls from officials with cities that
have current Northern League teams, those calls are not being returned.

“We are not interested in hurting any of those teams in the Northern League,” he said.

said Stone refuted a report that the Northern League was investigating
putting a new franchise in the Twin Cities market.

“I did
ask (Stone) about it, and he denied it. The reason he denied it is I
believe he doesn’t seen any point in it,” Goldklang said. “Once someone
crosses that line, it’s the Wild West. I would think no one would want
to cross that line. If we get a call that someone is trying to put a
Northern League team in our backyard. Mike (Veeck) and I would talk and
see how we would react. But it would obviously send a message to us
about how the Northern League views our relationship.”